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Festival at Sandpoint appoints new executive director

by RACHEL SUN
Hagadone News Network | December 24, 2020 1:00 AM

The Festitval at Sandpoint’s board of directors has appointed Ali Baranski to the role of executive director for the nonprofit.

The board of directors made the decision in a vote earlier this month, said board director Chris Blanford. Baranski has been a resident of Sandpoint since 2013, served on the board since 2018 and worked as interim executive director since 2019.

“We are extremely excited to have Ali step into the role of executive director,” said Bob Witte, president of the board of directors. “The last year has presented a number of challenges to the Festival. However, during this time we have focused our energy on evolving, adapting, and revaluating every aspect of our organization.”

Over the past year, the festival board was challenged by the event’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and controversy over its weapons ban, which resulted in a lawsuit between the city and the county.

“I think that last year was really a chance for us to look internally,” Blanford said. “To make sure we’re financially stable, we haven’t had paid staff for the past year.”

Barinski, along with the board’s new office manager, Hailey Cecie, will be the first paid staff members in 2021.

Board members now say they’re ready and excited to work toward the 2021 festival with Baranski at the helm.

“There is no person better equipped to help move our organization forward than Ali,” Witte said.

Baranski enters her new position as the festival board working to move forward from the previous difficulties of 2020.

That effort included hiring an independent third party, Incite Consulting Group, to “ensure the Festival at Sandpoint’s mission is in alignment with the needs and desires of the community,” which included focus groups and interviews with community members including patrons and previous years’ sponsers, Blanford said.

“The organization has such a rich history and meaning to this community and to me personally,” Baranski said. “I look forward to being a part of the effort to bring the organization to the next level, making a positive impact in our community and helping to cultivate a love of music in youth across our community.”

Looking ahead to 2021, planning and booking for the event is already well underway, Baranski said.

Although there are still many questions from the public, the board is “very confident” that they will be able to move forward with the 2021 festival.

“In working with industry and medical experts, we have put considerations and plans in place to hold the 2021 Festival at Sandpoint with safety and potential limited-capacity measures in mind,” Barinski said. “We are beyond excited to gather again this summer for a fantastic season.”